The newest adventure in my exiting retirement began today. I flew to Saigon on a morning flight and spent a couple of days shopping for things that are hard to find. I am fortunate to be part of a team on an exploratory trip to Myanmar with the intent on establishing ties between tourism companies and help create a solid working relationship with a quality Burmese company. I guess now I could say that my close relationship with my personal friends has evolved into a working relationship with V’Explore travel in a public relation, tour design, and marketing capacity. Nghia (Owner of V’Explore Travel), his beautiful wife Linh, Hau (General Manager) and I headed to the airport to catch our flight. I had never been on an Air Asia flight before and I have to say that I was delightfully surprised. The aircraft are newer A320 Airbuses and the seats were of comfortable leather and the staff friendly. (a far cry from my experience back in Canada) A one and a half hour flight had us in Bangkok. With 4 hours to kill, we decided to take the train to downtown and see what we could find for lunch. It was confusing at the train platform and instead of finding a nice restaurant, we ended up eating some street food next to the railroad tracks. This was my first taste of local fare and I have to say…. I like it! Most of the dishes
were spicy and very flavorful and the accompaniment of roaring trains with ear shattering whistles made it a unique experience. Back at the airport we made our way to the connecting flight to Myanmar. I am on that flight now and the landing announcement has been called…… I continue later. It is 6 am and we have just taken off for Bagan on a turbo prop aircraft. Last night was a hoot. We arrived at our hotel in Yangon at 7:30pm and were off in search of dinner by 7:45. Nghia hailed a taxi outside and for a negotiated price of 2000 we were off to Chinatown. The taxi was of some manufacture I did not recognize. It was missing a dashboard and reminded me of the stereotyped Mexican vehicles in the movies. We chugged up to street 19 that was lined by BBQ restaurants bursting with a variety of foods. For dinner we feasted on large shrimp, pork ribs, an excellent grilled Talapia, and a variety of
other skewered meats. The food was excellent. The cost worked out to about 8 dollars a person, but with the quantity of food and the expensive beers made it a good value. Hau was in his usual good form after downing a little local alcohol, a local street performer handed him a guitar and a round of Vietnamese folk songs was started. To our delight, there was another table of Vietnamese sea men that joined in and the Burmese got to enjoy a little entertainment. By the time we were finished dinner, it was almost 11pm and a 4:00 wake up call was going to be a rude awakening. We returned to the East hotel via a taxi that had us laughing the whole way
back. We had thought the first one old and rickety, but this one……….. Wow!! Besides a gutted interior and old creaky seats with springs poking a person in the rear end, the sagging rusted doors had to be tied closed with a bit of twine. I should note that two things struck me. One was that they did not drive by horn like in Vietnam….. What a relief that was. I also noted it a bit odd that everybody drove on the left hand side of the road like in north America, however, the vehicles were right side drive. As suspected, our wake up call came much too quickly and we groggily made our way to the lobby for the ride to the airport. The domestic terminal was very primitive by modern standards and we were directed to our flight via a color sticker that was slapped onto our chest. I had a bit of a chuckle when as attendant balked when Linh stood there waiting for the young man to slap the sticker on her chest. For the Vietnamese, this kind of physical contact would be normal, but to this young Burmese man……….. Well… He almost looked like he was in pain as he applied the sticker. I would have offered, but……. I was very surprised when going through security, our bags were scanned but we were allowed to walk through security without them checking the large Styrofoam boxes that are used for restaurant take away. I would have had no problem smuggling in anything I wanted. A bus hauled all passengers to the aircraft and up up and away.